Going west for 15 years: past, present and future directions in “developing” western China

Fifteen years after China initiated its Go West Campaign, the challenges that justified this project persist. While tens of billions of renminbi have been invested in the west, mostly through large-scale infrastructure projects, economic imbalances between eastern and western provinces have perdured – if not deepened. Despite the fact that some environmental indicators have turned green, environmental challenges remain as daunting as they were fifteen years ago. ‘The gift of Chinese development’ has also failed to attenuate ethnic tensions and ensure social stability in the west (Yeh 2013).

This panel seeks to examine the ongoing Go West projects, questioning the political and economic narratives they promote, and how they have evolved since the early 2000s. We also aim to trace how this set of projects has transformed western China economically, culturally and territorially. Third, we intend to probe the reasons why many development schemes have failed to deliver their expected outcomes in this area, and if such repeated failures have had any influence on how the state steers the Go West Campaign. Finally, we propose to investigate other alliances between state, corporate and/or non-governmental actors that facilitate development schemes in western China.

In particular we are interested in papers introducing case studies that explore the daily consequences of development schemes implemented in western China. Scholars with a focus on the politics and economics of the Go West Campaign, or any other development scheme led by governmental, non-governmental or corporate stakeholders are also invited to send their 200 word abstract to Janet Sturgeon (sturgeon@sfu.ca) and Jean-François Rousseau (jf_rousseau@sfu.ca) no later than February 10, 2015.

Reference cited: Yeh, E. T. 2013. Taming Tibet: landscape transformation and the gift of Chinese development. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.